For The Love of Cheese

Fresh Baked Wheat

by: Jack Dorris

For those truly familiar with Natalie and I, you know she is the chef in the family and I am the baker.  A chef can bake and a baker can cook, but there are distinct differences and it is rare to find someone excellent at both.  A chef tends to be more fluent with their creations.  Its not about following a recipe once you have the basics, its about instinct and flair.  

I'm not that creative.  I like to follow recipes, ratios and simple methods.  Don't get me wrong, I can adjust and improvise; but taking any set of raw ingredients and whipping up a delicious meal is beyond my comfort zone (think Food Network's Chopped - a Dorris household favorite). I'm very planned and deliberate in my execution.  That's where baking comes in...  Its more mathematical, more ratio specific than magic (to me).

One of our families favorites, and a popular item at the restaurant, is my Honey-Wheat Bread. Its soft, moist texture and honey-sweetened wheat flavor gives it an addicting appeal -- its difficult to have just one piece.  Give it a try, the method is simple -- or rather "Straight Method" in baking terms.  This means all ingredients are mixed at once.

Keep in mind, the joy of baking includes the lack of absolute perfection.  Don't mind the quirks in the appearance, they add character and authenticity.  And while ratio and recipe are important, there is a "fudge factor," so don't go crazy trying to get that last 100th of an ounce.

Tools: (I will follow this post with my recommendations from Amazon to get you started) 

3 quart mixer with dough hook (up to six quart recommended)
Digital scale
Baking stone
Large silicon baking mat
Spray bottle of water (never used for anything other than water)
Oven (obviously!)

Ingredients: (all measurements are by weight)

11.5 ounces   Milk, 2%  (use half water if whole milk is used) 
0.4 ounces   Active Dry Yeast (use 0.2 ounces for Instant Yeast)

6.25 ounces Bread Flour
12.5 ounces  Whole Wheat Flour
3 ounces      Honey, Grade A
1.75 ounces  Extra virgin olive oil

0.4 ounces   Salt, extra fine (I prefer pure sea salt) 

Method

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Preheat oven to lowest available setting (around 170 degrees)

Weigh out milk and warm in microwave until lukewarm (NOT HOT) then add yeast to activate.


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Weigh out flours and create a "bowl" like cavity in the middle for the honey and the oil.


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Combine flours, honey, oil and milk in mixer on LOW speed until dough clings to the hook -- approximately 5 minutes.  You may need to stop the mixer and scrape the bowl occasionally if the hook is not getting to the bottom.

Add salt and continue to mix on LOW another 5 minutes.

Turn off oven and place mixing bowl on middle rack of oven and cover with a damp towel until dough has doubled in size -- Approximately 45 - 50 minutes. 

Turn out the dough onto the silicon baking mat on counter and turn oven back on to lowest temperature. 

Divide dough into three equal portions. 

Gently stretch and flatten each portion into a rectangle-type shape. 

Roll each portion up lengthwise and pinch the seam together.

Using the palm of your hands and extended fingers, roll the dough back-and-forth to evenly thin the roll out and lengthen it to about 24 inches.  Do this for each portion. 

Pinch one end of each portion together and begin to braid by taking far-right portion and crossing it over the middle portion, then take far-left portion and crossing it over the now-middle portion.  Repeat until you reach the end of the dough.

Pinch the ends together and slightly tuck them under the braid. 

Flour the baking stone and transfer the braided loaf.  Place in the oven to allow the dough to rise (called "proofing") until double in size -- approximately 45 minutes. 

Turn oven up to 400 degrees (without moving the dough).  Mist the oven and loaf with water and repeat every 3-5 minutes.  The moisture will help form and brown the crust. 

Gently check the bottom of the bread using a spatula after 10 minutes to make sure it isn't burning.  If so, turn oven down to 350 degrees and continue baking. 

Bake until crust becomes brown and the loaf springs back when poked -- 13 - 18 minutes.

Remove loaf from baking stone and transfer to cooling rack. 

Enjoy your delicious, home-made, additive-free bread! 

Once cooled, the loaf will stay fresh 2-3 days when wrapped in plastic. 

Crazy For Quinoa

When it comes to food , I'm a traditionalist and rarely do I jump on the band wagon of the latest trendy ingredient. However, about a year ago I stumbled across an article on qunioa in a food magazine and was intrigued. At that time, my assistant Kara and I were wracking our brains trying to create a dinner party menu for a guest who needed to please the red-meat-loving majority of her group plus satisfy her gluten-free, dairy free, vegan,  in-laws. And I have to say that article on quinoa saved the day (or rather our menu) and has since become one of my new favorite ingredients to use in all types of recipes.

The fact that Qunioa is new to me is a little ironic since it's been domesticated in the Americas for over 3,000 years. Its not really a grass or grain, but the seed of a leafy green. It's high in protein, fiber, magnesium, and iron, plus it has all eight amino acids making it a great meat substitute. But the best thing about this ancient grain- it's so easy to cook! You only need 15-20 minutes and it cooks using the same methods as rice. My favorite brand is found at Costco: Nature's Earthly Choice- Premium. Its pre-rinsed and does not need to be soaked (some brands skip this step to reduce the cost, so read your label carefully). The mild, nutty flavor works well in most recipes that call for rice, pasta or couscous. You can add it raw to soups or stew as they are simmering, or replace rice with it in a pilaf. My family enjoys it most cold, like a pasta salad, but at the restaurant we used it as a pilaf topped with sliced roasted portobello mushrooms and an arugula salad.  

 

Cooked quinoa

Basic Preparation

1 cup   qunioa  
2 cups  water or chicken stock  
pinch of salt

 Put the liquid and qunioa in a medium sauce pan, bring to boil over medium heat. Turn heat to low and simmer until all the liquid is gone and the grain has separated (it kind of looks a little like fish scales but don't tell your family that or they won't eat it, trust me.)   There is no need to cover the pot. If you think that the water boiled off too quickly, add a 1/4 cup more of liquid and keep simmering until its all absorbed. The process should take 15-18 minutes.

Marinated Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa

This is my go-to picnic salad for this summer. I've served it along side several main dishes including roasted chicken, pulled pork, and smoked salmon sandwiches. It can be refrigerated and served chilled, but I think its best at room temperature.  The vegetables are definitely the star of this dish while the quinoa adds structure and pulls all of the flavors together.  While I have kept this recipe vegetarian, it would be wonderful with a salty feta cheese or fresh mozzarella mixed in.  I like to eat the leftovers for lunch on a bed of baby greens with albacore tuna flaked on top or some cooked shrimp.

Ingredients

1 cup      quinoa, prepared and then cooled
1 cup      onion, chopped, red or sweet white
1 cup      tomatoes, roma or grape, chopped  
1 ea.       cucumber (or zucchini), chopped 
1/2  cup  bell pepper, chopped, any color you prefer 
2 ea.      garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs.     fresh herbs, minced (ie. parsley, basil, or cilantro)
3/4 cup  red wine vinegar
3/4 cup  extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine the quinoa and vegetables in a medium bowl. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. The salad should be well coated in dressing and very wet. Add additional oil and vinegar if needed. Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving. The salad can be refrigerated for up to three days

 

 

 

marinated summer vegetable salad with quinoa

I was searching our picture files for over an hour last night for this shot of the vegan entree that started my love for quinoa. I finally gave up  and went to bed, but of course Jack found it in the first file he checked! The qunioa was formed in a ring mold to hold its shape, then topped with a sliced mushroom and arugula. We then drizzled the plate with pesto vinaigrette.

Quinoa pilaf with roasted portobello, arugula and pesto vinaigrette

For The Love of Cheese

My name is Natalie, and I'm a wife, a mom, a chef, a caterer, and a restaurateur. I love cheese so much that we named our first born son after it- and our restaurant and our daughter. We named our son Colby Jack and then the restaurant after him. (Yes, we know, he will hate us for that later!) I love everything that pairs with cheese: wine, chocolate, craft beer, fresh bread handmade by my dear husband-the baker, local produce, and most of all sharing my love of food with my family, friends, and customers.

Since our restaurant of nearly five years closed its doors last month in Atascadero CA, I've been trying to think of ways to still connect with our guests. Well here it is, I can't cook for all of you everyday right now, but I can share with you my recipes, reviews and culinary adventures here on this site.

I attended culinary school in Pasadena, Ca and received a Le Cordon Bleu diploma- but I don't like to call myself Chef Natalie. I don't know, I think it sounds it kinda cheesy. And anyone who has ever cooked on a restaurant line these days claims that name on their resume. (The job title "Line Chef" just cracks me up. You are a Line Cook, dammit!) I didn't ever ask the guys or ladies on my line to call me Chef, although some did anyways. I'm a Cook, a good cook, one who likes to create food people will enjoy: comforting food that is not pretentious, looks delicious, tastes great, and is seasoned well.  I plan to post some of my family's favorite dinners, a few of my signature menu items from Colby Jack's, and of course what I'm creating at home right now.  I may even convince my husband to write a few post on bread baking. I can bake, but he's the bread whisperer (his eyes are rolling at me right now as he reads this). Okay, we'll see where that goes...

Last week we made an appearance at the monthly mixer for The Atascadero Chamber of Commerce hosted at the historic Portola Inn.  If you ever have a chance to attended a wedding or special event at this unique historical garden and bed & bed breakfast- don't miss out.  Its nestled in a residential neighborhood just a few blocks north of the Atascadero Lake Park and Zoo and it feels like you're stepping into a moment in time when Atascadero was just a burgeoning colony and William Randolph Hearst was building his little house by the sea. Its a very unique place, so I decided to create a new recipe to share at the mixer, one that blends everyone's favorite comfort food with flavors our regular customers would recognize as definitively "Colby Jack's". What resulted is the richest, cheesiest, have to eat a green salad with it so you don't feel guilty for eating so much, best mac and cheese I have ever made. Enjoy! 

Smoky Green Chile Mac & Cheese
with bacon and fried shallots

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Smoky Green Chile Mac & Cheese with bacon and fried shallots

1 pound medium shells or elbow macaroni

1 qt half & half
6 tablespoons unsalted butter 

1/2 cup flour
20 oz of grated cheeses (Smoked Cheddar, Colby Jack, Blue, Pepper Jack) *see note
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
a few dashes of hot sauce (cholula) 
a pinch of koshe salt
1 small can roasted green chiles (ortegas), pureed

Topping

4 slices of thick smoky bacon
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a 3 quart baking dish with pan spray. 

Bake bacon slices in oven until the fat is redured but not crispy or burnt. Save the fat drippings and chop the bacon finely into crumbles, reserve.

Puree the green chilies in a food processor, reserve.   

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add  kosher salt to taste. Boil pasta according to package directions. Do not over cook. Drain well and toss in just enough olive oil to keep pasta from sticking. 

Heat half & half on low in a small saucepan. Do not boil. Melt butter in a large 4 qt pot and add flour. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.  Add heated half & half slowly, continuing to whisk until mixture is smooth. Turn heat to low and cook for a few minutes until it is smooth and slightly thickened. Add the pureed green chilies, and all seasonings. Cook for another minute then turn off heat and slowly add the cheese mixture a handful at a time. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cheese blend for the topping. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the topping: heat bacon drippings in a small saute pan until very hot. Add sliced shallots and fry until lightly golden and crispy. Do not burn. Drain on a paper towel. Mix crumbled bacon, cooled shallots, 1/2 cup of cheese blend, panko bread crumbs and parsley in a small bowl. Sir until evenly combined. 

Sprinkle topping evenly over casserole and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly in the center and crispy on top. Cover with foil if your topping starts to get too brown.   

Smoky Green Chile Mac & Cheese with bacon and fried shallots

Note: It is very important that you find an all natural smoked cheddar, not a processed one and personally I prefer a white cheddar. I like to mix equal parts of the smoked cheddar, colby jack, blue cheese and pepper jack (or swiss if you don't want heat), but you can use any amounts of those cheeses that you like, as long as you have 20 ounces total. The casserole can be made ahead. Just cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. I baked the pictured recipe in a half size hotel pan and it fit nicely. Double the recipe and it will serve at least 16-20 people. If you want to cut down on calories, swap the half & half for 2% milk- but don't use "nonfat half&half"- the sauce won't thicken right.